15 Tips for a Successful Legislative Session
The information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice and may no longer be accurate due to changes in the law. Consult NHMA's legal services or your municipal attorney.
The next legislative session, which begins on January 6, 2016, will address many issues that involve New Hampshire’s cities and towns and their ability to meet resident demands for essential public services. The Association’s best advocates for protection of municipal authority are its members – elected and appointed officials – from cities and towns of all sizes and geographic areas. NHMA needs your participation. Before, during, and after the session, the NHMA staff works directly with legislators on items of municipal interest. NHMA encourages our members to build and maintain relationships with legislators when they are in session, and even when they are not in session. Below are some basic tips for a successful legislative session.
1. Stay Well Informed
The Association provides several ways for members to stay informed about legislative matters. NHMA’s Legislative Bulletin is the primary legislative communication between the Association and its members. It is sent electronically to member officials and select state legislators on Fridays during the legislative session. Accessing the weekly Legislative Bulletin via our website, www.nhmunicipal.org, is also key in staying informed. Email us if you would like to be added to our Legislative Bulletin distribution list.
2. Attend webinar updates
Attend Association webinars. We will hold three legislative webinars this year. One at the start of the session (Monday, January 11, 2016), one at Crossover (Wednesday, March 30) and one at the end of the session (Wednesday, June 8). All webinars run from noon to 1 p.m. These webinars are a great way to get your feet wet, learn, and hear which issues will be key for cities and towns in this legislative session.
3. Put someone in charge
Make sure you designate one staff person to be responsible for initiating a timely response to newsletters, emails, and other communications.
4. Follow through
Continue to respond to the Association’s updates as bills move through the legislative process.
5. Can’t be at the State House in person? Send letters, emails, text messages
Send communications outlining your position and ask your legislators’ stance on a bill.
6. Be able to act quickly
Establish a procedure for urgent, same day action on bills.
7. If your city or town has special clout, use it
If your legislator is a member of a key committee, it is especially important that your city or town respond to as many bills as possible.
8. Say “thanks”
Remember to thank legislators regularly and publicly for their work, support, votes, etc. Never discount the importance of a sincere thank you.
9. Participate in NHMA’s legislative policy process
The Association can always benefit from your input on potential changes in state law that would help you do your job better or cost taxpayers less money. In the spring before each new legislative biennium, NHMA solicits legislative policy proposals from member municipalities. Members are encouraged to participate in one of the three committees established to review these proposals and make recommendations to NHMA’s Legislative Policy Conference to be held in the fall of 2016.
10. Keep an inventory of your municipality’s needs
When you meet with your legislators, let them know of your top funding and other legislative priorities.
11. Meet regularly with your legislators
Your legislators need to hear from you, or they’re forced to make policy decisions on local government issues without fully appreciating the impact they will have on your city or town. Make it a point to establish an ongoing, personal relationship with your legislators and meet formally at least once a year to review key issues.
12. Know your legislators
Know who your legislators are and how to get in touch with them. Bonus points if you know their preferred method of contact.
13. Keep staff informed
Always send copies of your correspondence to and from legislators to the Association. Staff can work more effectively with your legislators when we know what you’ve said and received in return. It also allows us to incorporate your local story into our commentary. Emails can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.
14. Effectively utilize Association publications
During each legislative session, the Association publishes the Legislative Bulletin, a weekly newsletter outlining current status of important pieces of legislation. If you are not currently a subscriber to the Bulletin, and would like to be, please send us a request at email@example.com.
15. Stick with it
It’s a fact of life in public policy that things take time. Your consistent participation in the process, year after year, is essential to the long-term success in the legislature.
(Reprinted with modifications with the permission of the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials).